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College Football Week 4 Picks: Early Conference Clashes Carry Big Implications

Who will win Week 4's biggest college football games? Our picks for Michigan-Wisconsin, USC-Utah, Auburn-Texas A&M and more.

Another college football weekend is upon is, with a compelling slate of games starting with Friday's Pac-12 showdown between Utah and USC in Los Angeles. Saturday then brings a couple key Big Ten clashes—Michigan at Wisconsin and Michigan State at Northwestern—plus an SEC West top-25 battle featuring Auburn and Texas A&M and a marquee non-conference matchup in primetime with Notre Dame traveling to Georgia. Who will win Week 4's 12 biggest games? Our writers and editors' picks are in. To see our picks against the spread, click here.

Season-Long Standings:

Scooby Axson: 29–8 (78.4%)
Max Meyer: 28–9 (75.7%)
Michael Shapiro: 27–10 (73%)
Molly Geary: 26–11 (70.3%)
Tim Rohan: 25–12 (67.6%)
Ross Dellenger: 22–15 (59.5%)
Laken Litman: 21–16 (56.8%)
Joan Niesen: 19–18 (51.4%)

No. 10 Utah at USC (Friday, 9 p.m. ET, FS1)


Max Meyer picks Utah: Admittedly, I haven’t been overly impressed with Utah to start the season, as the Utes have surrendered 5.5 yards per play against BYU and 5.4 against Northern Illinois. But I can’t ignore two massive advantages for the Utes: their top-tier defensive line against a USC offensive line that struggled to handle three BYU players rushing the QB this past weekend, as well as the coaching mismatch between Clay Helton and Kyle Whittingham. So while I think this is an extremely close game, those two factors ultimately give the Utes the win in Los Angeles on Friday night.

No. 11 Michigan at No. 13 Wisconsin (12 p.m. ET, FOX)


Joan Niesen picks Wisconsin: This will be the fourth consecutive season the Badgers and Wolverines have faced off, and in the three prior, the home team has won. I predict that trend will continue, and not just due to Wisconsin's home-field advantage. This year's Badgers, albeit against lesser competition, have looked just as good as, if not better, the teams that won the Big Ten West in 2016 and '17. Jonathan Taylor has been something like unstoppable, and the Badgers offense is far more balanced and plays with a greater measure of ball security than it did in 2018. On the other side of the ball, its defense has been phenomenal. Meanwhile, Michigan's defense may have lost a bit of its bite from a year ago, and its offense will almost certainly struggle to get the running game going against Wisconsin, which has all but eliminated that phase of the game for its opponents thus far. That'll put pressure on Shea Patterson, and Wisconsin will ultimately win a close game.

Michigan State at Northwestern (12 p.m. ET, ABC)


Michael Shapiro picks Michigan State: I'll frankly be surprised if either team crosses 20 points in what should be a classic Big Ten slugfest. The Spartans limped to a 10–7 loss at home to Arizona State in Week 3 (shout-out Herm), but Mark Dantonio's squad should be able to eek out a win on Saturday even with a pedestrian offensive attack. The Spartans defense should clamp down on Northwestern quarterback Hunter Johnson, bullying the 'Cats in a road victory to open Big Ten play. Don't be surprised if this one is close in the fourth quarter.

No. 8 Auburn at No. 17 Texas A&M (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)


Ross Dellenger picks Texas A&M: First off, Auburn, while showing great fight and determination in the season-opening win over Oregon, probably didn't play well enough to win that game. Let's just be honest. The Ducks dominated for a good three quarters, and their late-game gaffes really cost them. The Aggies, meanwhile, put up a strong effort in one of the toughest matchups of the season so far—playing at No. 1 Clemson. Give me the Aggies at home. They'll put us all on Gus Malzahn watch.

No. 15 UCF at Pitt (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2)


Tim Rohan picks UCF: Has UCF finally settled on a quarterback? Last week against Stanford, true freshman Dillon Gabriel, the 2018 Gatorade Hawaii Player of the Year, torched Stanford for 347 yards and four touchdowns in UCF’s biggest game so far this season. That might have been enough to earn him the job over Notre Dame grad transfer Brandon Wimbush. Pitt nearly pulled off the upset last week over rival Penn State and fell just short. Seems as if that might affect the Panthers’ confidence heading into this matchup with a UCF team that’s rolling right now, especially the way Gabriel is playing.

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No. 22 Washington at BYU (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2)


Ross Dellenger picks Washington: The Cougars know how to win the close ones, especially of late. They've been on the good side of consecutive three-point overtime games, winning at Tennessee and beating USC last week. The Huskies rebounded from their home loss to Cal by tearing through Hawaii, 55–20, in a game in which QB Jacob Eason tossed for 262 yards and three scores. This one is close. Maybe BYU has run out of its narrow-winning ways.

Kentucky at Mississippi State (4 p.m. ET, SEC Network)


Laken Litman picks Mississippi State: While both teams here are trying to rebound from fourth-quarter meltdowns a week ago, give a slight edge to the home team. Mississippi State may have questions at quarterback with starter Tommy Stevens day-to-day (shoulder injury), but at least Joe Moorhead has a fearless backup he can turn to. Last week freshman Garrett Shrader made somewhat of a name for himself when he spun like a helicopter while trying to convert fourth-and-16 late in an eventual loss to Kansas State. It was a valiant effort that earned him brownie points, at least on social media. Meanwhile at Kentucky, starting QB Terry Wilson is out for the year and backup Sawyer Smith, a transfer from Troy, threw three interceptions in the loss to Florida.

South Carolina at Missouri (4 p.m. ET, SEC Network)


Michael Shapiro picks Missouri: Kelly Bryant tossed three touchdowns against West Virginia in his first Power 5 matchup of the season on Sept. 7, and you can expect the Clemson transfer to continue his strong start to the season against South Carolina. The Tigers' offense enters Saturday averaging 39.7 points per game, armed with one of the conference's top running backs in Larry Rountree III as well as the conference's best tight end, Albert Okwuegbunam. Look for the Tigers to keep rolling against the Gamecocks' middling defense on Saturday, especially in the friendly confines of Faurot Field in Columbia, Mo.

No. 16 Oregon at Stanford (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)


Molly Geary picks Oregon: Stanford has had a wildly uncharacteristic start to this season (not helped by K.J. Costello missing a game-and-a-half with a concussion), most notably allowing both USC and UCF to rack up 45 points in the last two weeks. The Cardinal's passing defense currently ranks 109th in FBS, giving up 280.3 yards through the air per game, and that's a major concern with Justin Herbert coming to town. Oregon is dealing with some key injuries, including among its pass-catching group, but even with an improved Stanford performance it's hard to imagine the Ducks not doing enough on offense to win this one.

Oklahoma State at No. 12 Texas (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)


Scooby Axson picks Texas: Perhaps Texas’s Big 12 fate could be decided by mid-October, especially if it can’t break a few unsightly streaks of its own this Saturday. Oklahoma State has beaten Texas four straight times, including the last five games played in Austin. The Longhorns must also deal with the nation’s leading rusher in Chuba Hubbard and the nation’s leader in receiving yards in Tylan Wallace. The Cowboys' defense has been exposed so far this season, so expect Sam Ehlinger and his receivers to find open space all game long.

No. 7 Notre Dame at No. 3 Georgia (8 p.m. ET, CBS)


Tim Rohan picks Georgia: Georgia has won its first three games by a combined margin of 148–23, albeit against Vanderbilt, Murray State and Arkansas State. In Notre Dame’s only true test, in the season opener against Louisville, the Cardinals gashed the Fighting Irish for 249 rushing yards, on 5.3 yards per carry. The Bulldogs have a stout offensive line and one of the best running backs in the country in D’Andre Swift. Expect for him to have a big day, for Jake Fromm to play mistake-free football, and for Georgia to win this one at home.

Colorado at No. 24 Arizona State (10:00 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network)


Max Meyer picks Arizona State: Both of these teams have big issues, despite their winning records. Arizona State’s offensive line is a disaster. So is Colorado’s defense. The Buffaloes have relied on turnovers since they’ve been outgained in terms of yards per play so far this season (5.93 YPP on offense, 6.60 YPP allowed on defense). Arizona State is rarely a team that has beaten itself under Herm Edwards, and Tempe will be a tricky first road game for Colorado after facing three consecutive rivals in Boulder. While the Sun Devils don’t strike me as a team that can blow opponents out, I think they have enough to pull off a one-possession win.